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Opinion | Extension of business visas double delight for recovering Hong Kong



Another week goes by, and there has been yet another easing of mainland policy that aims to support Hong Kong’s economic growth.

The latest involves mainland business visa holders, who will be able to spend 14 days in the city or Macau, double the current seven, under a relaxation of rules that will take effect from May 6. Support for the two special administrative regions is to be welcomed.

The move by the National Immigration Administration aims to encourage the growth of cross-border business as well as help support new initiatives in the Greater Bay Area.

In addition, a visa scheme for mainland talent that already covers those living in the bay area will be extended to Beijing and Shanghai.

Hong Kong, Macau business visa length doubled to 2 weeks per trip for mainlanders

The change, which could benefit tens of millions of mainland companies, follows measures to facilitate listings in Hong Kong and expand the Stock Connect Scheme recently announced by the China Securities Regulatory Commission.

China’s President Xi Jinping has made it a priority to build up the city as an international financial centre, and Xia Baolong, Beijing’s top official here, has told local officials that policy support is being prepared.

Tourists have returned to Hong Kong but their lengths of stay and spending habits have evolved, and business is not what it was. Those from the mainland are making more day trips and spending less.

A weak yuan makes things more expensive with the Hong Kong dollar pegged to a strong US dollar. Restaurants, for example, worry that this Labour Day “golden week” holiday, which starts tomorrow, may see trade drop by 30 per cent on last year.

So if tourists are not spending as much, perhaps mainland businesspeople with bigger wallets can help. As many as 18,000 had taken advantage of the talent visa scheme, which was launched in February last year, by the middle of this month.

Bad weather, weaker yuan could hit Hong Kong restaurants hard over ‘golden week’

Doubling the length of stay to two weeks for those holding business visas will also allow more time for commerce and money-making activities as well as a weekend or two of leisure time that Hong Kong is known for.

Those coming for business reasons are likely to stay in high-end, five-star hotels rather than budget accommodation and will have higher spending power on visits to upscale shopping areas.

Further support is in the offing, including proposals to sharply increase the duty-free limit on spending in Hong Kong by mainlanders to 30,000 yuan (HK$32,000), up from 5,000 yuan.

In light of such moves, Hong Kong must continuously review its policies and preparations to ensure it can make the most of these measures, and be more attractive in the fields of commerce and tourism, even for those who only come for a day.

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